Buried Bops & Bangers: Mutya Keisha Siobhan – Flatline

Written By Sam Murphy on 11/27/2018

Buried Bops & Bangers is a new weekly feature pulling unappreciated pop songs from the archives. 

It’s almost unprecedented that the original members of a group that went through several different incarnations team back up for something of any use. The original members of the Sugababes hadn’t been together since Siobhan Donaghy left in 2001. Keisha Buchanan was the last member to leave the group, leaving a completely new Sugababes to run the group into the ground.

While Sugababes turned to dust, Mutya, Keisha and Siobhan reunited for, what was at the time expected to be, a new album. People were immediately excited about the reunion, not only because it was the original Sugababes, but because it seemed they were reclaiming some of the cool they exuded on songs like Overload. A cover of Kendrick Lamar’s Swimming Pools produced by Dev Hynes raised the bar before Flatline came and knocked it out of the park.

Alternative pop was in a great place in 2013 mostly thanks to Hynes. The year before he’d produced Solange’s flawless True EP and also Sky Ferreira’s breakthrough Everything Is Embarrassing. In 2013, HAIM were bursting onto the scene with their Fleetwood Mac-influenced pop, Lorde was bringing a dark quirk to the mainstream and even James Blake’s left-centre electronica was finding itself on the radio.

Before the release, MKS went on a sold-out tour of the UK and did a few interviews revealing that they’d been working with Hynes and British producer Naughty Boy. Fans were going bonkers about the dodgy live recordings of two songs in particular Boys and Flatline. The latter was released soon after and the fanfare only got bigger.

Flatline is brilliant. It’s not an obvious mainstream hit but it’s the sort of song that would find a home with Carly Rae Jepsen and Charli XCX fans even in 2018. The harmonies are unmatched, the chorus is affecting but not explicitly pop and Hynes’ production is alternative but still big enough for a pop hit. Despite plenty of online support, the song limped into the UK charts at number 50 and to this date is the only original song the group has released.

All three members of the group have confirmed this year that they are still working, citing a leak of the original album as the reason it’s taken so long. You’ve got to question whether that would really take five years but we’re still hoping we get that MKS album. There’s also an argument for why they may work better in 2018. In 2013, there was still pressure for the group to do well on the charts. They had once stormed the radio as the Sugababes and MKS were expected to match that.

Pop is in a different place now. Jepsen’s E.MO.TION flopped but gained plenty of traction online, giving her a dedicated fanbase unconcerned with charting. Charli XCX has also achieved a similar thing, releasing mixtapes rather than going for the traditional, chart-aimed album. That’s a world that MKS could certainly fit into if the new songs are as good as Flatline.

For now though, let’s just enjoy the moment in time that was Flatline.

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